Thousands of pupils hit the streets over crowded classrooms

Pupils walk past a police Nyala on Thursday May 16 as protests over school overcrowding hit Kraaifontein, Cape Town, this week.
Pupils walk past a police Nyala on Thursday May 16 as protests over school overcrowding hit Kraaifontein, Cape Town, this week.
Image: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Thousands of learners from numerous schools in Kraaifontein in Cape Town joined together on Thursday to protest against overcrowding in their classrooms.

The protest, which started outside Bloekombos Secondary School, followed a smaller protest on Wednesday. Some parents joined the protest and shut down the road and school from about 9am.

As the day progressed, learners from Masibambane Secondary School, Wallacedene Secondary and Hector Pietersen High all joined. Those schools closed their doors as well.

Earlier this week, department spokesperson Jessica Shelver told GroundUp that the department would not be building another school in the area. She said that there were other schools in surrounding communities where learners could be accommodated.

As students and parents protested in the street, one school was broken into at the back. Burglar bars from two windows had been bent where someone entered. Apparently chairs were stolen.

Learners with belts in hand and law enforcement gave chase. A man was caught, but it is unclear who beat him up. He denied stealing the chairs and said that they were given to him. He was detained by law enforcement.

A teacher who wished to remain anonymous said that Bloekombos Secondary School has over 2,000 students when it is only meant to have a maximum of 1,200. The teacher said that his class has 84 learners and “half of them are sitting on the floor”.

He said that he’s not sure if exams will take place. Exams for Grade 12 students are scheduled to start on Friday and other grades on Monday.

There’s so many students that teaching here is crisis control, he said.

Indiphile Mvana, a grade 12 student, said that some of the children will have to write exams outside.

“What if it rains?” she asked.

Mvana said that there was a shortage of text books and furniture in the classrooms and some classes have one teacher for 80 learners. Mvana said that she is struggling to study like this.

“We are demanding a new school," said Mvana.

“We are the most populated schools here in Kraaifontein,” said Chricentia Masilo, referring to Bloekombos and Masibambane Secondary School.

A grade 11 student at Masibambane Secondary, Masilo said that she is aware that government has built other schools, but they must supply free transport. She said that many schools are overcrowded because parents can’t afford transport and high school fees.

According to the Western Cape education department’s 2019’s enrollment figures, 15 new schools and over 480 teachers would be needed to accommodate the increase in students this year. Titled Western Cape schools bursting at the seams, the media statement said that the province had an increase of 18,285 learners this year, “16,285 of which are from outside the province” (the statement doesn’t say what percentage increase this is).

This article originally appeared on GroundUp.

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